Loathe to secede haute supremacy to the new guy in town, Karl Lagerfeld wished Raf Simons well. He then positively rocked it — but oh, so gently — in his Chanel couture show on Tuesday.
Lagerfeld showed in his favorite venue, the Grand Palais, this time atop the imposing double stairway in a vast salon built for the 1900 World’s Fair and, according to Lagerfeld, not used since. He lined the path to the stairway and decorated the space with abundant trees dotted with white camellias (not nature’s own, but Chanel silk). White wicker furniture turned the room into the perfect spot for a summer respite, where guests lounged under a remarkable ceiling mural painted with clouds that took three weeks to complete.
Start to finish, the collection mesmerized as Lagerfeld played to the tender, and most obviously respectful (of the house founder), side of his Chanel range. His invitation and press notes that featured his illustration of Mademoiselle against a pink ground, flagged the latter. “I like the title New Vintage. It’s very Chanel, but it’s not vintage yet,” Lagerfeld mused of the collection’s name. “It’s the next vintage, and what Chanel should be 100 years after the house opened.”
What Chanel should be 100 years in is fabulous, a condition Lagerfeld’s stewardship has secured. Here he was at his brilliant best, starting by reasserting his position of long-time standard-bearer of reality couture. That meant go-to day clothes, one after another, a multitude of tweeds in various mixes of black, white, gray and pink. Looks were variously sporty (a box plaid schoolgirl dress), ultrachic (confetti suits with jackets hemmed in pleated chiffon frills) and please-God-give-us-winter (coats to kill for). On the coat note, if a trapeze made from two tones of densely packed sequins that are a ringer for fur doesn’t send your haute glands into overdrive, nothing will. Evening was all romance, from delicate blouses over languid, Coco-esque trousers, to a pink column all afluff with powder puffs.
Throughout, the work of the Chanel atelier was on exquisite display — the embroidered tweeds, the jeweled halters, an intricate lace patchwork. Lagerfeld’s genius lies in making it all feel so real-world right. Until he indulged himself with one remarkable flight of fancy: His bride wore a skirt as grand as the venue’s dome, under a feather coat with pink camellia closure and winged collar. It soared.